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Business Stage: Test and Refine Your Online Business (2022)
After launching your business, you’ve probably come to realize there’s a lot more to learn and do.
This is good news: it means you’re growing and changing with time and experience! As I’ve written about before, the first three to six months—called the ” start-up phase “—are crucial for setting up your business for success. In the early stages, your focus is on setting everything up and just getting it going—the “get your business online phase.”
Now that things are running smoothly, the next step is to pinpoint areas that need improvement and work to improve them! This doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch, but instead, take a good hard look at your business and give it a tune-up!
A successful business is a well-oiled machine that’s constantly being fine-tuned. In this post, I’ll go over how to test, validate and refine your online business model.
The ” test and refine your online business model phase ” involves collecting information about what works, what doesn’t, and coming up with ways to improve without getting too overambitious. This is the heart of the wise owl approach. Why take on something new when you don’t have to? Why overcommit and take on more than you can handle (and end up burning out)?
If something isn’t performing as well as you’d like, look at it from a different perspective or try a new tactic. See what works for other entrepreneurs in your niche and use that as inspiration.
Before going into this, I’ll say there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long you need to be in the “test and refine your online business model phase,” so take everything with a grain of salt.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s get into it! Here are 7 tips for how to test, validate and refine your online business model.
1. Evaluate the strengths of your business
What’s going well? What areas do you excel at or have a good handle on? If you’re feeling unsure about yourself as an entrepreneur, take a step back. It isn’t always easy to be objective about ourselves! You may have to spend a day or so being absolutely honest with yourself before you can start seeing things more clearly.
In the early stages of your business, this might mean that you’re on top of everything on your plate—like customer service and marketing. You might not be bringing in as much revenue just yet, but you’re confident enough to know what needs to get done and you’re figuring out where things need improvement.
2. Evaluate the weaknesses of your business
What’s not going well? What could do with a bit of tweaking? If any aspects of your business stress you out, chances are they aren’t doing someone else any favors either. Sometimes we can get so focused on our strengths that we neglect weaknesses, but it’s just as important to be self-aware.
Sometimes this means you’re having challenges with the overall look and feel of your website. It might also mean you’re not totally confident in what you’re offering or where you stand in your industry. You may need help finding out more about what you’re selling and who your target audience is.
3. Identify potential opportunities
What could be improved? What new things seem like they’d work well in your business? How could you take what’s already working and expand on it? Your strengths should help guide you as to where you want to go next. Are there any specific areas that you could branch into?
As an example, if your blog is doing well and you want to build on it, think about what you’ve done so far and how else you can grow. If your social media presence is building up, how could you expand the audience for that as well? Maybe try a new platform or take advantage of current events.
4. Identify potential threats
What could be problematic? What are some of the biggest obstacles you face in your online business? How could things go wrong, or have you already encountered any problems that need to be dealt with? You want to anticipate any issues before they happen so you’re not caught off guard by anything! The more you know about what’s going to happen, the better you can prepare and deal with it.
Some potential threats could include an overall lack of interest in your products or an overall lack of response from your customers. There might be an issue with market saturation as well (just too many competitors). On a smaller scale, issues like not having enough pictures on your website or not having a mobile responsive site could be threats.
5. Look for patterns and trends
Are there any commonalities in what you’ve found so far? Is there a specific type of customer profile that resonates with your business the most? What about an area where your customers are coming from, or a time when you see the most traffic? Do any of these things point to a larger issue that needs to be resolved?
As an example, if you send out an email blast and it brings in massive engagement, but your social media gets little interaction, maybe something is up with the way you’re sharing your content. The “best” times to post on social media may not be the “best” times for your customers to see it—maybe you’re posting too late at night.
6. See what’s changed the most recently
How have things changed over time? What has been good and bad in the past week, month or year? Get a sense of how your business is growing and where there might be opportunities for improvement.
You might find that there are times when you have more traffic on your website, or you might see an increase in revenue during a specific season. Maybe you notice certain changes in customer behavior that impact what you’re selling or the way they shop around your business. This can be a sign of an opportunity!
7. Make a to-do list
What does your plan look like going forward? What’s the next step in doing what you’ve already done, but better? If you have a specific goal or want to concentrate on one area, what would get you closer to that objective? Make sure it’s realistic and achievable within a specific time frame.
As an example, if you find that most of your sales come from Instagram, then maybe putting more effort into that platform is a good idea. Or maybe finding new and improved ways to connect with your customers and potential customers on social media would be something to focus on. Try testing out new things and seeing how they work for you!
8. Know when to re-evaluate
A simple way to do this is just asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing working?” Does it feel like you’re moving towards your goal? How could things be better, and how can you change that? Then once you have a plan in place, do a review every so often.
Once a month might be enough at first, but then you can change it up depending on the growth of your business. And when things are working out well, it might be time to re-evaluate what you’re doing every 6 months or every year.
What you are learning from this post is the concept of continuous improvement. It is the understanding that nothing is ever completely “done” and there’s always something to work on. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail, but if you want your business to be as successful as possible, there are definitely things you need to do!
As we said at the beginning of this post – use these tips and tricks as a starting point. Know that this is your business and it’s going to take some time to find out what really works for you – but if you keep an open mind, stay positive and be patient with yourself then you’ll figure things out.
Keep the end goal in mind – whether it’s a steady stream of income or a big boost in revenue. Just remember that the only way to get there is by iterating and improving, day in and day out.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming – it should feel like you’re setting micro-goals along the way, rather than having one huge mountain to climb (because if it’s too daunting then you might not actually do anything). By the way, if you don’t have your business goals set yet…Or if you’re not sure how to start, then check out this post on figuring out your business goals.
You might even find yourself looking back at your first few iterations and thinking, “Wow – I can’t believe I wasted my time doing it that way!” But the great thing about iterating is that you learn from those mistakes. Each time you make a mistake, learn from it and try again until you get to where you want to be. 🙂
A final thought on testing, validating, and iterating your way to success. It’s hard work. It’s not always fun (and it can be pretty tough when you’re trying to establish your business). But if you keep at it, keep pushing through the times when you feel like giving up, learn from your mistakes, and find ways to make things better – then in no time at all you’ll get where you want to go!
So what are you waiting for? Get to testing!
This blog post was written with my AI writing assistant, Jasper.
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